Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration - Vol. 2

Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration - Vol. 2

Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration - Vol. 2

Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration - Vol. 2

Excerpt

A WEEK after Grant's inauguration realists had begun to suspect that he would not prove the greatest President since Washington. A year after, many were convinced that he was not even the greatest since Lincoln. Charles A. Dana became sulphurously denunciatory in the spring of 1869. That fall Henry Adams, Boston cambric to nose as he investigated the Black Friday stench, wavered between incredulity and despair. By the following spring Horace Greeley was growing peevish, and his bright young men were penning satirical paragraphs; only Grant's early conversion to total amnesty could placate the Tribune --and he remained unconverted. Then came Grant's worst fortnight since Cold Harbor: the fortnight of the Santo Domingo defeat, Hoar's and Motley's dismissal, Fish's temporary decision to leave. After that crisis, desertions became a steady stream. Editors like Samuel Bowles, Horace White, E. L. Godkin, William Cullen Bryant, gathered in clubs, Republican ink still on their fingers, to ask if seven years more of Grant were really a necessity. In a little while they began to ask if they were even a probability. What if the plain man found out the President?

There was small danger. The plain man had not elected Grant; he had elected an indestructible legend, a folk-hero. At its heart was Grant the reality; but the only change easily comprehended in the reality was that he wore a glossy silk hat instead of a black felt campaigner. Mention that monosyllabic name, and the prosaic laborer, farmer, clerk, or business man for once in his life saw a vision. It was a vision of four years of terror and glory. Painted on the clouds above his farm or shop, he saw the torrent of muddied blue uniforms rallying on the bluffs of Shiloh; he saw the butternut rush dissolving against a smoke-wreathed line at Champion's Hill; he saw the night torn by shell and rocket as gunboats spouting fire raced past Vicksburg; he saw the lines at Lookout Mountain waver, reform, and go on up; he saw two armies wait as Lee walked into the parlor at Appomattox. He heard the crackle of flames mingle with the roar of musketry in the Wilderness; the campfire chorus of "John Brown's Body"; the steady clapping as Sherman's army rolled down Pennsylvania Avenue. Clay from Illinois had saved the nation. The part of it called Lincoln was now clay indeed; the part . . .

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